Connect The Dots

Saint Paul homeowners feeling the bureaucratic pain:

Andrew Dick is trying hard to make sense of the situation he’s in.

He bought a vacant, dilapidated house on St. Paul’s East Side with the intention, and the means, to fix it up and sell it. He has a track record, a plan and money in the bank.

What he might end up with, though, is a hole in the ground and a bill. According to a recently adopted city ordinance, he shouldn’t have been allowed to buy the property, which is heading down the path to demolition.

And yet – it’s a perfectly good house?

Too bad Mr. Dick isn’t a non-profit; it seems they can get a hold of vacant houses:

I recent had a chance to hear Sheri Pemberton of Planning and Economic Development (PED) tell the Fort Road Federation what the city wants to do with all this.  The first order of business is to characterize the pockets of vacant and foreclosed homes into places where the market is still working, starting to falter, or has totally broken down. The latter is where you find empty blocks and houses being offered for $40k or less.  The strategies to deal with these are based on saving houses where the market is working and creating a new market where there is none now.

In other words, it could very well be that Mr. Dick’s attempted reno just isn’t policy.

Too bad he didn’t read Shot In The Dark last summer. As the supply of vacant homes skyrockets, Saint Paul is choking down on the rules involved in occupying them.  (Read the whole series:  Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V).

4 thoughts on “Connect The Dots

  1. Thanks for the excerpt (I think … 🙂

    While I’m to the left of a lot of people ’round here, and I generally think the city government does a good job, there’s a lot of room for improvement. One of the links goes to an observation made by a friend, a Democrat in good standing, who has a real problem with city policy. This isn’t a left/right issue, it’s a matter of doing what’s right – and practical.

    The simple fact is that there is nothing better for the city than to have individuals put their money and sweat into improving our housing stock. That’s not an easy job, and if you want them to do it right you have to be ready to support them. Anyone can make mistakes, so the city must be helpful in getting things going.

    They aren’t always helpful. At times, they can be hostile. That just has to change.

    More importantly, the City has to be able to take criticism from quarters like this, understand them, and at the very least come up with a damned good answer.

    The current ordinance is a serious problem, and needs to be changed. End of story. The intent was a good one, but it ignored reality.

    The city has taken a very hard line on bad properties, and I understand why. But they can’t do it while clamping down on people who are trying to do the right thing. This is something that you’ll find a lot of lefties supporting, and eagerly. A mistake has been made, and we had better correct it. Guys like this are what we need a lot more of in Saint Paul.

  2. The City was warned by many people at the time of enactment that the ordinance was (1) unenforceable and (2) idiotic but did they listen? Ramsey County refuses to honor the ordinance – you can file your papers with the property records office despite the ordinance, because a lower unit of government cannot prevent the higher unit from performing its statutory duty. The City Attorney knows this and has been trying to work on a cure but certain blockheads on the Inspection staff and on the Council are deadset.

    Personally, I think the ordinance creates a cloud on the title to every parcel in the city. It’s illegal to sell any property that’s Cat 3. But the City can change the designation at any time without warning. You can never be sure that the property is yours to fix up – they might make you tear it down instead. Who’d be stupid enough to lend money on that basis?

    Almost all of the mortgages foreclosed in St. Paul weren’t made by local banks, but were originated by mortgage brokers and sold to investors. So Bostrom thinks someone like Deutsche Bank as Trustee of a mortgage investment pool is going to write off the initial loan amount plus invest another $50,000 to fix up a dump on the East Side, which it then can sell for what, maybe $70,000? In what fantasy world would that be consistent with its fiduciary duty to the investors?

    I’m not surprised to see that Bostrom has no idea how modern real estate transactions work, but I must admit I’m surprised to see he’s such a scoff-law, what with him being a former cop. The ordinance says it’s illegal to sell the property. The present owner is a co-conspirator in an illegal sale. Violation of an ordinance is a misdemeanor. The right answer isn’t to undo the crime – that’s restitution after the conviction. The right answer is that the City should PROSECUTE the landowner and seek the full penalty of the law – $1,000 file and 90 days in jail!

    Come on, Bostrom, let’s see some REAL enforcement action. Start throwing homeowners in jail. That’ll surely help stimulate investment in your ward.

    That, or repeal the damned ordinance and along with it, the entire vacant property ordinance. The only way to get dumps fixed up is to let people buy them and fix them up. Get city government of the way and there’d be a horde of investors looking to invest money in fixing up houses to resell on the cheap.

    Never forget the wisdom of Ronaldus Magnus: Government is not the solution; government is the problem.


  3. I agree. Bostrom should be seeking full prosecution of these jerks who think they can come into the city and spend money improving it. Just who do they think they are anyway? Don’t stop there though. I think the city needs to get right to the source of the trouble. It’s time the City of St. Paul shows us what the ordinance is made of. Start prosecuting Sheriff Fletcher and his hirelings for those illegal Sheriff Sales of Category 3 properties. That will show the world that nobody is above the rule of law in St. Paul.
    Let’s not forget that the State and the Federal governments are each disregarding the rule of law in St. Paul. Why, the state has the audacity to act as if State law is somehow more relevant than local ordinances. And the Feds think that their control of the banking industry and interstate commerce ought somehow to be above the influence of blockheads like Bostrom who want to interfere with the national and global economies. I mean what the heck, there’s no reason that a guy like Bostrom can’t go make treaties, and encourage lending with other nations and the citizens of those nations now is there?
    Constitution? Since when does that trump a City of St. Paul ordinance? It has been the consistent policy in St. Paul for at least 20 years that it can enact any ordinance needed to get around any mere US Constitutional protections, minor things like right to privacy and freedom from inspectors marching into private property without warrant or cause. And yet, just like now, they have always used that power in St. Paul to harass the owners who are trying to better property.
    But, who knows, maybe now is the time, today may be the day that the City of St. Paul steps up. Start those prosecutions at the Sheriff office and work out from there. Start using the limitless power of ordinance to inspect not just for long grass, but for meth labs and and murder fugitives too. It’s time the City shows the world how to get things done.

  4. Now wait a minute, ktk. You can’t just pick-and-choose who you’re going to prosecute. That’s not fair. It’s obvious there was a vast conspiracy at work here. We need to nip this kind of lawlessness in the bud — in the bud, I say — and the only way to do that is to throw a wide enough net to catch everybody involved. Throw ’em ALL in jail. That’ll really send a message to potential criminals: stay the heck out of St. Paul with your crooked ways.

    Let’s get ’em all, everybody involved in this conspiracy to break the Vacant Building law: the realtor who listed the property and his broker who is responsible for the realtor’s conduct; the closer who handled the sale and her secretary who typed up the paperwork (don’t pull that innocent act on us, sister — when the bank guard ends up dead, the get-away driver is just as guilty as the guy who pulled the trigger, that’s what it means to be an “accomplice” and you should have thought of that before you started your life of crime).

    Don’t forget the mortgage broker who obtained Dick’s new loan, and the bicycle messenger who couriered the papers to the county offices for recording – those acts in furtherance of this conspiracy to commit a crime shouldn’t go unpunished, either.

    Look, if we’re going to have a law, it’s got to apply to everybody. Throw the book at the lot of ’em, that’s what I say. It’s the only way to make sure we don’t stimulate the wrong kind of investment in Ward 6.

    Homeownership. Cuz that would be just terrible.


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